A son was awakened by his mother one Sunday for church. He told her he did not want to go. “I’m not going this morning,” he said. “I’m giving up church.”
“Why?” his mother asked patiently.
“Because no one likes me or is friendly to me and besides, it is boring. Give me two good reasons why I should go.”
She responded, “Because you are 52 years old and you are the pastor.”
Some people never grow up. Never mature. They remain children all of their lives. Jesus admonishes us to be like little children. So, what does He mean when He says, “Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Is Jesus placing a premium on immaturity? If so, then “hot diggity dog.” I don’t think so.
Though Jesus encourages us to be “like little children,” the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 challenges us to “put away childish things.”
So, let’s contrast childishness and childlikeness.
Childishness are those things that we need to grow out of. I am going to suggest that Paul had in mind that we outgrow simplicity of thought. The innocence and naivete gives way to reality and more complex thinking. After all Paul says, love “bears all things; hopes all things; endures all things.” That is pretty serious stuff. There are things to be carried and endured.
Some people are very naïve about their faith. We need a mature faith. There are some incredibly difficult and complex issues. What do we say to the world about social issues? It is not enough to point to a Bible verse. People used the Bible to justify slavery.
Jesse Ventura was the wrestler turned governor of Wisconsin. He said something like this: “Organized religion is a crutch for the weak-minded.” Karl Marx said a similar thing. A church sign read: “Weak-minded welcome.”
Everyone should be welcome, but the Christian faith should not be an excuse for being weak minded. Just because we are saved by faith does not mean that we should put away our brains.
It is a sad testimony that over the centuries some Christians have denied that the world was round (based on scripture), or that the earth revolved around the sun (based on scripture), or that dinosaurs existed (based on scripture).
We need to put away childish things.
We also need to outgrow selfishness, says Paul, in vv. 4-5 of 1 Corinthians 13, “Love does not insist on its own way.” Childishness insists on its own way.
As a child you are at the center of the universe. One of the first words a child learns is “mine.” Children are a bundle of needs. When our son was 2, he was eating. After our prayer he said, “More, more,” and we thought he wanted “more” prayer. He wanted more food.
Children are incredibly self-centered. As children mature they learn that there are others in this universe.
This generation is the “me” generation. It is the first generation that can take a picture of self. A growing faith is one when we see the needs of others.
Childlikeness is another thing. There are things we need to grow into, says Paul. How about truthfulness. Paul calls it “rejoicing in the right.” Children will usually level with you about what they are thinking and feeling.
You remember the Hans Christian Anderson parable “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The emperor parades around naked. The adults, trapped by politics, culture, and denial, are dishonest and compliment the emperor on his new clothes. The child says, “He’s naked.” The child tells the truth.
So, childish or childlike? A little less of the former and a lot more of the latter would be good.